Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Agriculture has an important role in Turkey’s economic and social fabric. Although it constitutes a relatively small portion in gross national product (12%) and exports (10%), it provides the livelihoods for one third of the population and is the major source of employment in rural areas (over 70%). Turkey’s agricultural land constitutes 20% of the total agricultural land in the European Union, giving it a key role in the region. Despite this key role, the agriculture sector in Turkey faces structural problems in terms of access to investment, information, and technology. The immediate results are an agriculture sector with low levels of education among farmers, low efficiency and limited marketing, making it less and less attractive for investors and younger generations.
As a result, agricultural employment rates are in steady decline and many farmers are operating without critical agricultural information and know-how, significantly decreasing their efficiency and product quality. They also remain isolated from alternative markets, relying on the same archaic intermediary mechanisms to sell their crops year after year.
Information technologies offer numerous solutions to these problems, yet remain inaccessible for the large majority of the farmer population. As a result, most farmers are operating without up-to-date information and know-how on issues such as weather forecasts, diseases, market price quotes, new regulations and financial support opportunities, which is significantly decreasing their life quality and efficiency.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
While information technologies are opening up new opportunities for sharing information and interacting in virtually every sector in Turkey, the agriculture sector and farmers themselves do not benefit from these remarkable tools. Over half of the farmers in the country (56%) have never used the internet, while only 7% of the minority groups who own a computer report using it for their work. Tülin is bringing together these two unlikely friends - Turkish farmers and information technologies – to provide farmers up-to-date information, know-how, skills and professional development, while also creating opportunities for them to reach alternative markets by bypassing traditional intermediary structures.
Tülin established Tarımsal Pazarlama (Agricultural Marketing) and its web-portal www.tarimsalpazarlama.com in 2004. It is now Turkey’s first and now main communication, e-learning and e-commerce media that meets a farmer’s every possible need. Accessed by farmers through a simple SMS message or by their children through internet cafes, the portal is not only encouraging internet usage for better farming, but also creating opportunities for inter-generational dialogue. Since its launch, it has served over 800.000 farmers as a one-stop virtual resource center and marketplace to meet with other farmers, agricultural engineers, veterinarians, agricultural firms and exporters.
Tülin is continuously creating services and products that are tailored to farmers’ needs to ensure that they participate in the value chains as full citizens and have full access to any type of information needed to improve their work and lives while also sharing their knowledge with the farmer community. Tülin is also addressing systematic challenges of Turkey’s agriculture sector by lobbying with the companies and public institutions. Tülin’s future plans include opening up the e-commerce part of her portal to the international markets to allow Turkish farmers to sell abroad, to establish “technology villages” which demonstrate how technology can be used in rural life to the maximum and to give women farmers a portal through which they can sell local agricultural products and handcrafts.